I’ve done a few day missions recently which I’ll throw up here.
First is a trip out to the Pisa Range in between Wanaka and Queenstown which over looks the town of Cromwell too. It’s mostly flat, rolling terrain at a decent altitude which is mostly famous for Snowfarm, New Zealand’s only real cross-country skiing area and of course the Mighty SnowParkNZ (RIP). The range was named by J.T Thomson after the schist outcrops on the summits resemblance to the italian leaning tower.
Of course it’s not all flat and rolling and the end overlooking Cromwell is any thing but!
We spent the night at Kirtle Burn Hut and set off for the highest point of the range, Mt Pisa. The eastern edge of the range is a series of cirques with small vertical but varied terrain. The normal west to east flow of winds means the area gets huge amounts of blown snow.
Even though I started splitboarding a few years ago I’ve never really come across many others involved in it, its one of those things that isn’t talked about, most people don’t want to share their spots, with good reason I guess, nothing is worse than traveling out to a zone to find your objective tracked as I experienced earlier this season. That’s locally I guess and in the Queenstown area I’ve spoken to maybe 5 people tops that split. I know there are more out there, boards keep arriving in shops and keep getting sold. These people must be out there somewhere.
The local snow scene isn’t very big online here and the few people who participate can be found on various forums but it’s not very often you can meet or ride with them, which is what made a splitfest an interesting concept for me because it draws people together.
We headed up to Canterbury on a beautiful spring morning, scoping lines and mountains on the way. Enjoying the different landscapes as we passed, the tussock and schist of Otago, The wide open Mackenzie basin rising to New Zealand’s highest peaks and finally through to the Canterbury Plains famous patchwork of fields. After a quick fuel and food stop in Christchurch we headed back inland with light fading fast towards the Craigieburns and Arthur’s Pass National Park. Continue reading →
It would appear to be spring. I love spring. Its warm enough to BBQ and cold enough I can still snowboard. Freak southerly outbreaks are almost assured as soon as lambs start to be born, stable weather that lasts for weeks not days. I love winter too, but spring is my favourite season. Continue reading →
The internet, and Facebook are a bit of a funny thing. The level of connection between people in different parts of the world, different time zones amazes me. I love being able to keep in touch with what people I meet on ski seasons are doing, in most cases knowing we probably wont ever meet again but that contact is always there.
I often also seem to keep in contact with people I haven’t ever met before over forums and the like. I was fortunate that one such person thought of me recently when Kyle Miller was looking for a place to crash in Queenstown.
I would have previously said I was lucky, but as Kyle might say its fortune that I happened to have just quit my job and then someone who is as interested in splitboarding around this snow-covered isle turns up out of no where.
Perhaps all those nights scanning over Hillmap and topographic maps dreaming about the “What if I could get in there?” will become “How the hell do I get in here?”
Last time i wrote was about how warm it was, that didn’t really change much for all of July. Apparently it was the 4th warmest July on record for New Zealand. Corn turns in July was common and i wasn’t quite ready for it. Luckily i was busy working for most the month.
However its gotten cold and started snowing again, not much but some is better than none. The ski hills all stated around 10cm, the perfect amount to cover up all those rocks, tussocks and exposed patches of ice. I went into a local ski shops workshop on monday night to pick up some parts and they were busy fixing a whole heap of core shots.
Myself and my lady made it up to the Remarkables and it all looked a bit grim. A crusty skin up to the ridge line revealed that the grass was greener (pow was whiter?) on the other side. Deep wind drifted snow, still dry and prime for the shredding!
We played it safe with our terrain choice today, mixed conditions sadly claimed a life the previous day so ever cautious we rode a small gentle rolling valley that was easy to lap but still fun!
Its been warm. Too Warm. 14 degrees in Queenstown and a steady stream of northerly winds have created wet heavy snow conditions in the back country. Crappy conditions combined with a stressful new job have seen splitboarding opportunities diminish.
I made it up to the Remarkables ski area for an attempt to ride wye creek but the wet heavy snow was a bit soul sucking. Snow sticking to skins and ride time so slow it wasn’t even worth the effort. Should have waxed!
Myself and my partner made it to the ridgeline only to be buffeted by strong winds and a shitty time changing over and a general retreat to the inside.
Hopefully we see some cold temps and fresh snow in the not so distant future.
In 2011 after I purchased my first splitboard (See here) I decided I should build on my basic skills for backcountry travel and I partook in a New Zealand Mountain Safety Council course about backcountry travel. Probably one of the better decisions I’ve ever made as it really boosted my confidence about getting out there after I was caught in a large avalanche while snowboarding in the backcountry near Lech am Arlberg in Austria.
The course was taught by the head of ski patrol from the Remarkables Ski area and took place in the Wye creek and Doolans areas behind the ski area. The first day out in wye creek i spotted it, Looming above us from our lunch spot. Motivation if I ever saw it.
The Couloir at the end of the south face of Single cone in 2011
I got home and a photo of it became the wallpaper on my computer. Motivation to get out there and ride it. For various reasons last year wasn’t to be the year.
After seeing it in prime condition earlier this week, I had to get out there and ride it. Everything lined up and saturday was to be the day.
My usual BC buddy Todd had seen a photo of it i put on Facebook and was keen to get involved. After a late start we were skinning up the South Wye col above Lake Alta towards single cone. Saturday was busy in the back country. A lonely snowboarder post holed away above us and when we reached the col, 3 skiers entered from the valley below. The thought crossed My mind, But I brushed it off. Upon reaching the plateau below Single cone we skinned over to where I thought we could ride down to gain entrance. Skier tracks in a similar direction, Again I brushed it off. We changed over and rode down some fantastic deep dry snow in fun, gully style terrain with banks to slash and rocks to pop off, the only negative was the chunks of water ice that had blown onto the surface of the snow in places from near by rocks.
My thoughts to stay high on the ridge were terrible and after a bit of billy goating we had found it. And the skiers tracks were straight into it! Oh well. Its still gonna be fun. I wanted to check the pack as I like to be cautious about these things. A 15cm surface layer broke from 5 taps from the elbow on the isolated column. I wasnt too worried. Todd got to be guinea pig and drop in first as i snapped a few photos from the top. The light had gone flat at this stage and we both rode it rather cautiously. Bits of breakable crust sloughed behind but it wasn’t enough to be an issue, Just an annoyance in the flat light.
The one line had taken a bit longer than we had anticipated but it was a fun day out and I got to tick something off the bucket list thats been on there for a long time!